In Search of Pain Perdu

 “Lost Bread” was a common home-cooked breakfast when I was a school kid, though I often stumbled at pronouncing it. My parents, who came from French Louisiana, used the native words, “pain perdu” which translates roughly to “lost bread.” Now the bread was not really lost. What it really meant in that context was “stale,” as though the bread had lost its freshness. In preparation, the slices would be swished in an egg wash and then fried, competing in the genre of pancakes and waffles as a dish for deluging with syrup and butter.

There was one major difference in the home version of pain perdu compared to what the pros in the restaurants made—the type of bread. The old country’s version called for sliced leftover French bread; mom’s “rendition” always used sliced white bread. Back then, in the era before artisan breads, “sliced white” pretty much dominated the home kitchen.

On the side, if we were lucky, were a couple of slices of bacon to be chased by orange juice. Back then, all breakfasts were seen as being healthy, regardless of the toppings, and certainly bacon must have added some sort of protein. Orange juice, I once thought, was the ultimate health food, until a local doctor suggested I check the sugar content.

Our cover story looks at Top Breakfasts, for which our reporter selected 32 meals from local restaurants. Breakfasts have become a big business. The menus are more diverse and far more fancy. At least pain perdu, if not always healthy, was French. That should have counted for something.

Errol Laborde Signature